I signed onto EW's Quibi series about late-night TV — and then we all went on lockdown
Heather Gardner, host of Last Night’s Late Night, writes about launching the series remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic — and why we need those late-night laughs even more right now.
There’s an old saying in the entertainment business: The show must go on! Except, that’s a little tricky when the show that “must go on” never really started in the first place.
When I moved from New York to Los Angeles to host Last Night’s Late Night, EW's new show on Quibi, my wildest imagination couldn’t have predicted the effects the coronavirus pandemic would have on our production. I was excited! This gig was everything I’d ever dreamed for my career! Here I was, about to host a show covering one of the entertainment industry's most history-rich genres, only to be sidelined in the 11th hour.
But the return of late-night television during this crisis reminded me why I was so excited to be hosting Last Night’s Late Night in the first place.
I’ve always had to defend my obsession with entertainment news, both as a hobby and then eventually as a career choice. Like many Angeleno transplants with stars in their eyes, I used to ward off questions from well-meaning people like, “don’t you want to do something more serious with your life?” or “How about finding a real job?” I, however, never once questioned the need for entertainment in our lives.
Even as a kid – and before the internet – I’d grab any gossip or fashion magazine I could get my hands on just to read about the glamorous lives of celebrities. The pages transported me to this real-life world that seemed so far away from my own. I enjoyed movies and television for the same reason; whatever stress or hardship happening in my own life could be drowned out for a few precious minutes by entering someone else’s story.
I truly believe that feeling of escapism is universal, and we’re seeing that more than ever given our current state. To put it simply: can you imagine this new world without your television, computer, or smartphone screen?
The first week of social distancing, when the United States was settling into what’s become our new “safer at home” normal, was lonely and even scary. In a matter of days, our sense of security was upended in such an unexpected way, and amplified even further by the void in our regularly scheduled programming. It took time for our local and national newscasters to find their own new normal – broadcasting from home. And the news we were hearing was grim at best, terrifying at worst.
Slowly, the late-night shows returned, albeit from much humbler setups than their big, bright, live studios. Jimmy Fallon broadcasted The Tonight Show from his daughters’ playroom; Stephen Colbert put on a suit and tie and presented The Late Show from his bathtub; Samantha Bee had her entire immediate family help bring back Full Frontal from her backyard. The new format proved that despite how isolated we are, we’re all getting through this the best way we can.
More importantly though, the return of the late-night shows reminded us, like it’s done many times throughout American history, that it’s okay, and much needed, to laugh through this unprecedented time even if we also need to cry.
And I’ll be honest, launching a network television show alone in my living room instead of how Quibi and the Last Night’s Late Night team had intended has produced more than a few tears on my end. But truly, for a few hours every single night when I cover these seasoned comedians doing the exact same thing from their own homes, I forget that this is weird; I forget that this is hard. I just laugh, and I’m thrilled to be laughing right along with you!
Starting your day with joy has always been Last Night’s Late Night’s intention – it’s such a fun show that pulls together the funniest moments of late-night TV every day! We just didn’t realize what a privilege it'd be to launch during a time when we can all use the extra laughs.
But you know that old saying.
Watch EW's new daily series, Last Night's Late Night, every morning on Quibi.